Our bodies perform non-stop functions that we don’t think about. When is the last time you focused on making your heart beat, your kidneys filter, or your pancreas to produce insulin?
Thankfully our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) handles all that. I don’t know about you, but my calendar is pretty full, and I don’t want to add on making sure my blood brain barrier has all the troops in the right place.
The ANS is broken into two parts—the sympathetic and parasympathetic. Simply put, the fight or flight and the rest or digest. While you are walking, working, dealing with the day, the fight or flight is up and running. When it is time to sit down to a nice meal or go to sleep, the rest or digest should take over. A healthy body needs to be in both states, when appropriate. The problem comes when we are stuck in one or the other long term.
One of the most common things I see in my practice is Sympathetic Dominance. People are almost endlessly locked into fight or flight mode. This can contribute to a number of issues.
Some of the most common:
- Breathing issues
- Sleeping Disorders
- Intestinal dysfunction
- Over anxious thinking
If your body never relaxes, it doesn’t have a chance to rest or reset itself. This leads to adrenal burnout, which can cause severe fatigue, other hormonal imbalances, reduced immune function and in general you may feel like your body is run down but your brain is in overload.
Dr. BJ Palmer, the developer of the Chiropractic profession, stated that an upper cervical (upper neck) misalignment can cause superior (brain) congestion and inferior (body) starvation. Which is a great description for so many that are dealing with sympathetic dominance.
A slip, fall, car accident, or other incident can cause one of the upper neck bones to slip out of its normal position and get locked there. This incorrect position leads to bad information to the nervous system and can lead to the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system being constantly stimulated. This leads to sympathetic dominance, and the rest or digest side of things never takes over. The body begins to tire, the immune system declines, and as we have learned in recent research, the brain can even begin to become toxic.
Until the bone is returned to its proper position, and range of motion the body is likely to be stuck in fight or flight. Once corrected, one of the first comments a new patient usually makes is “I had the best night of sleep I have had in a really long time.” The body immediately begins to try to rest and heal when it can finally get into rest mode.
Lifestyle, environment, and nutrition can all contribute to sympathetic dominance, but the upper cervical misalignment should always be evaluated as a potential cause if you are suffering from this condition. In chiropractic we like to say “the power is on” following an adjustment, but in this case we need to see if your power has been stuck in the on position for too long.